When writers recommend stories, they often do so from an instructional perspective, as examples of what you should do (but probably won’t). I present ‘The Story of the Eye’ as an example of what you could do, but probably shouldn’t. It is an erotic fantasy with kink/fetish elements (centred on eyes) written with an ostensibly therapeutic purpose. What elevates it from simple pornography is its association with Roland Barthes, who wrote an essay discussing its symbolism. I agree with Barthes to the extent that I enjoy the way in which the plot of ‘The Story of the Eye’ is subservient to the arrangement and rearrangement of a limited palette of motifs. I also appreciate the truth that it represents: while the results are ostensibly shocking or morally abhorrent, the ultimate end point of Bataille’s working out of his fixations is to reveal the limits of his imagination – that is, the centres of gravity to which his imagination must always wend, when allowed (or abandoned to) “imaginative freedom”.
First published in French as L’Histoire de L’Oeil, Pia et Bonnel, 1928. First published in English by Olympia Press, 1955, translated by Audiart, then Urizen Books, 1978, translated by Joachim Neugroschal